A bear paw found in Jiazhaigou National Park/Photo by Yue Li
One unbearable side effect to the opening of borders between Russia and China has been the rise in sales of illegal animal parts, says the New York Times. And though tiger bones, deer musk and frogs are smuggled in as well, the most popular item in this underground market is bear paws.
Aleksei Vaisman of Traffic Europe-Russia, a group sponsored by the WWF that measures the illegal animal trade up north, estimates that thousands are sold in China each year. “It is very widespread just now,” he told the NYT.
Interestingly enough, the rise in bear paw sales hasn’t stunted the growth of Siberia’s Russian brown bears, who are still enjoying a steady increase in population. But the bear paw trade tends to open channels for smuggling parts of much more endangered animals, such as the Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard.
Though several charities have stepped up to end the practice, the harvesting of bear paws and bear bile back home in China is a thriving enterprise. If we can’t even stop it from happening to the bears here, how are we going to stop it on the northern border?